Mapo tofu


First published in 2016
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This very famous Sichuan dish is also known as ‘pock-marked Mother Chen’s bean curd’ after the woman who reportedly first sold it in Chengdu, catching people with its delicious scent as they made their way home from work. Her face was scarred with smallpox, hence the rather odd name.

I would claim that it is the most delicious tofu recipe of all time, and many people I know agree. In addition, I’ve converted many tofu haters with this – it’s so intensely savoury and packed with flavour, yet it shows of the fabulous wobbly texture of the tofu at the same time. Eat it once, crave it forever.




Mapo tofu

  • 560g of tofu
  • 2 tbsp of Sichuan chilli bean paste
  • 1 1/2 tbsp of fermented black beans, rinsed
  • 1 tbsp of ginger, chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 200ml of vegetable stock
  • 1 tsp cornflour, mixed with 1 tbsp water
  • 6 spring onions, white and green parts sliced diagonally
  • 2 tbsp of Sichuan chilli oil, optional
  • 1/2 tsp Sichuan peppercorns, crushed
  • 3 tbsp of groundnut oil, or vegetable oil
Make sure to have all the ingredients ready before you start cooking
Drain the tofu and dice into 2.5 cm cubes (roughly, it doesn’t matter too much). Put the tofu in a bowl and cover with very hot water (not boiling) and allow to steep while you prep the rest of the ingredients
Heat a wok and add the groundnut or vegetable oil. Add the Sichuan chilli bean paste and cook, stirring for a few minutes until fragrant. Add the black beans and stir again briefly, then add the ginger and garlic. Cook, stirring, for a minute or so then add the stock and let it bubble
Stir the cornstarch mixture again then add it to the wok. Mix well, then use a slotted spoon to lift the tofu from the water, leaving the water behind. Add all the tofu to the sauce and gently turn it over until everything is coated. Stir in the spring onions (leaving a few green pieces for garnish) very gently
Add the chilli oil if you are using it and sprinkle over the Sichuan peppercorns to taste. The sauce shouldn’t need seasoning with salt, as many of the ingredients are very salty already. Serve with plain white rice
First published in 2016
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